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Francine Prose Writes to Readers and Aspiring Writers

abstract:One of my favorite writers and critics, Francine Prose, has published a new work directed toward just about anyone interested in books. It has the unwieldy title, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write. (Harper Collins 2006) An excellent interview of the author appears in The Atlantic today.


July 19, 2006
— Francine Prose was born in New York city in 1947. She is the author of several works of nonfiction and twelve novels, to which, The Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Reading Like a Writer is both a testimony to her own education as a writer, and her belief that the best writers are also avid readers. (There's hope for us yet!) One reviewer characterized it as being written by Harold Bloom—only directed at human beings.

Prose teaches literature, is a seasoned journalist and coveted book reviewer. She became a writer through her own passion for reading, and seems to think that writer workshops and MFA programs have somewhat lost their mooring in not being tied to great works of literature. Not many of her students have read Dostoevsky or can spell Turgenev.

She believes that book groups have gone some measure to get people back to reading, but that instead of getting caught up in the passion of a book, they are instead reading as though they must report some kind of opinion.

Francine lives in New York city with her husband and two sons.

Books by Francine Prose

  • A Changed Man: A Novel (2005) Vincent Nolan is a skin head who has an Ecstasy induced conversion and volunteers at "Brotherhood Watch", a foundation directed by a Holocost survivor. It is a satire on the radical right, fund-raising and liberal pieties.
  • Carvagio, Painter of Miracles (2005) This is one of several volumes in the HarperCollins Eminent Lives series designed to introduce readers to the subject. Short and compelling.
  • After (2004) After a school shooting a grief councelor is hired and the subjugation of recovering students begins with dire results.
  • Lives of the Muses (2002) An examination of nine women who were the muses for famous artists of the 19th and 20th century. Do you characterize a muse as an exploited victim or as a deft monopolizer of genius, or something in between? This book led me to conclude that I'd prefer to be a muse in my youth, and have a muse in maturity—the best of both worlds.   
  • Blue Angel (2001) A brilliant satire on an aging creative writing instructor and the academic system.  

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